The process of giving gifts is a universal phenomenon but the way it is done varies around the world. It is particularly so in Japan where gift giving is a unique process complete with rules that need to be followed to ensure no one is offended. If you have any plan of going to Japan and staying there for some time, it is better to be acquainted with some of the gift-giving practices there.
Often, gifts are exchanged in Japan between colleagues on July 15 and January 1. So, if you go to Japan around those days on business, be prepared to bring and take home, many gifts.
In Japan, the emphasis is not on the gift itself but on the art of gift giving, so do not be worried about an expensive gift or an inexpensive one. It is more important to the Japanese that you gave a gift.
Always present a gift with both hands, never with one hand out front and another to the side or behind your back. Those gestures show lack of intimacy or sincerity.
If you have a personal gift for someone, you must give it in private and never in front of a group. It is considered offensive for you to give a gift to someone in a group setting, but not give a gift to someone of the same rank in the corporate structure.
Before you accept a gift, always politely refuse it once or twice.
If you are invited to a Japanese home, make sure to bring cake or candy and a bouquet of flowers, which always have to be in an uneven number, except nine.
Remember, if you get a gift from someone in Japan, you need to give a gift back to them to avoid offending them.
Some of the acceptable gifts to give in Japan include frozen steaks, cuff links and pen and pencil sets.
However, gifts to avoid giving at all costs are lilies as they are associated more often with funerals than anything else, white flowers and potted plants. There is a superstition in Japan that says potted plants encourage sickness in a business or household, so avoid them like the plague, no pun intended.
Other gifts to avoid include four or nine of anything, as these are considered unlucky numbers. Also avoid red Christmas cards. Red cards are often used to print funeral notices, so you will get the opposite effect you are looking for if you hand them out for Christmas.
Before going to any foreign country on business or for a personal trip, always make sure that you understand the customs of the area. If it is to Japan, yo should be particularly cautious. You may undo all the good work you have done merely by overlooking a few simple rules of behavior. It will be painful too as the worst thing you can do is offend someone without realizing it, as when you give or accept a gift.
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